It all started with a kitchen chip-pan fire in 1966.
Once the repairs had been approved and completed it transpired that the insurance company had subsequently gone bust and Bill & Chris Nelson were left with a debt that they couldn’t pay. So Bill took on some weekend work, on top of his job as an electronic engineer, driving coaches for Broadway Coaches of Wickford.
In 1968 Bill & Chris’ 3 year-old son, Paul, died of leukaemia and Chris’ doctor advised them to find something to keep her occupied as an antidote to being swallowed by grief.
Norman Reid of Ferrer’s Coaches heard about their plight and offered them a coach, on the understanding that they would pay for it if their venture was successful. It was so successful that after a few months Bill Nelson left his job and joined the company as a full time driver/mechanic. This first vehicle was a 41 seat Ford coach bodied Burlingham. It was registered 712 ENM.
A second 41 seater, this time bodied by Harringtons, CVW 773 B, was sourced from Broadway Coaches in Wickford,
A third, a 53 seater, bodied by Duple was bought from George Weston of Weston’s Coaches in Wickford.
Beeline Coaches in Brentwood ceased trading and their diary and address book were passed to Nelson Coaches in lieu of payment for work that had been done for Beelines.
Broadway Coaches in Wickford ceased trading and their diary of work was passed to Nelson Coaches to be covered.
In 1973 the company bought its first new coach, a Ford 45 seat Plaxton Elite III, index ATW 584 L. In 1978 a Plaxton Supreme 53 seat Leyland Leopard CTM 404 T was added to the fleet as another new vehicle. (Bill Nelson driving)]
In 1978 Nelson Coaches became a limited company under the name “W H Nelson Coaches (Wickford) Ltd”.
In the early days the vehicles were based behind a market garden (now the Alpha Garden Centre) and the operation had grown from a single vehicle to a fleet of 5 vehicles in 1980.
In 1980 it acquired G&G Coaches from Peter Godward and also premises from K AGunnett, a plant-hire operator in Shotgate. A trio of Bristol FLF double deckers were part of the G&G fleet and they were operated for schools.
In 1984 Nelson Coaches launched Nelson Holidays, offering excursion and day-trip programmes. It also launched Nelsons Independent Bus Services (NIBS) with two bus services, one to Romford Market and the “Disco bus” to the Zero Six nightclub at Southend Airport. Both of these services were offered under Route Service Licences whereby Eastern National, as the incumbent national bus company, had to declare that it had no objection to the new services being offered.
Over time it became apparent that the nature of an excursion programme is that some events filled easily and others operated at a significant loss and that this type of business was relatively risky. The bus operations, however, were more predictable and more management effort was ploughed into looking for commercial bus opportunities and the Nelson Holidays and private hire operation under the Nelson Coaches banner gradually withered on the vine.
Bill & Chris were not happy with the local schools’ offering for their own children and contemplated sending them to an out-of-area school but transport was going to be a huge issue. They placed an advert in the Evening Echo and were amazed to receive hundreds of replies from parents who felt the same. Initially schools services ran to Mayflower School and St Martin’s school in Billericay and Hutton respectively. These services filled a niche and the number of destinations increased quickly over time.
In 1985 Steve Nelson joined the business, initially on a project to install a computerised ticketing system for the scholars’ tickets on a job-and-finish basis. Things must have gone very well or very badly as he never left.
In 1986 deregulation of bus services allowed NIBS to offer more bus services, and to compete with Eastern National and allowed the local authority to tender non-viable services. This allowed NIBS to expand its operations.
In 1994 NIBS bought its first new buses, a trio of Mercedes minibuses.
By 2000 Nelson Coaches disposed of its last coach and NIBS had become a specialist operator of schools services and of local bus services in the Basildon and surrounding areas.
In 2006 W H Nelson Coaches (Wickford) Ltd changed its name to NIBSbuses Ltd to reflect the fact that it had become a bus operator rather than a coach operator.
In 2006 NIBSbuses was awarded an exclusive contract to take every child into and out of Shenfield School. This was a “one-school, one-operator” contract and they were so successful in delivering an exemplary service that it was extended, then later re-issued and won, as a “one-town, one operator” contract whereby NIBSbuses assumed responsibility for the schools transport into Brentwood and Shenfield, providing a one-stop shop for parents and the local authority.
NIBSbuses provided buses to move passengers from Hatfield to the Lea Valley White Water centre for the 2012 Olympic Games.
(copyright Chris Stewart)
In 2018 NIBSbuses Ltd was acquired by the owners of another local operator with a similar pedigree and remarkable growth story, Stephensons of Essex. Remaining proudly locally-owned and independent, a new chapter of the business was started.